July 22, 2020: ICI Investment (May 2020)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the OCS has been keeping Ontario’s ICI sector updated on the status of construction activity through bulletins and the Coronavirus Contractor Survey Series. Several of these bullets have focused on building permit statistics as an indicator of construction activity. However, as discussed in the most recent building permit bulletin, the meaning of these statistics could be distorted in some cases due to disruptions in the ability of municipal governments to issue permits, and subsequent efforts by some to increase capacity to deal with permitting backlogs. In order to provide a different perspective on ICI construction activity, this bulletin focuses on Statistics Canada’s Investment in Building Construction data, which estimates actual spending in a given month.

July 22, 2020

Ontario’s 2020 ICI Investment on Par with Last Year Despite Massive Dropoff In April

Yesterday, Statistics Canada released Investment in Building Construction numbers for May, showing that investment in ICI construction in Ontario returned to pre-pandemic levels after a dramatic April drop. Monthly ICI investment in the province averaged $1.95 billion from January-March this year and amounted to $1.93 billion in May. In April, ICI investment fell to $928 million, about $1 billion less than any of the other months this year. This trend of an April drop-off and May recovery appears to be consistent in the three ICI sectors, and across Ontario’s sixteen metro areas.

Despite the billion-dollar loss in April, ICI investment in the January-May period is almost exactly the same as the same period in 2019. In the first five months of both this year and last, ICI investment in Ontario totalled $8.7 billion. ICI investment year-over-year is also relatively unchanged for Hamilton, Ottawa, St. Catharines-Niagara and Toronto. In Barrie, Kingston and Greater Sudbury ICI investment has fallen by more than 10%, while Brantford, Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo and Oshawa have seen modest increases of less than 10%. Belleville, Guelph, Thunder Bay and Windsor have all had ICI investment increases in the range of 17-22% so far this year, while Peterborough’s ICI investment has grown by a third, and London’s is up by more than half.


Note from Statistics Canada regarding accuracy of this data: “Based on the extraordinary events and business disruptions around COVID-19, Statistics Canada has made adjustments to the models used to estimate investment in building construction. As a result of these adjustments, there may be larger-than-normal revisions to the data in subsequent months.”